Why this phone call made me cry.

Tanya Jenkins


A few weeks ago, I had this phone conversation with Tanya Jenkins, and it left me in tears.

Tanya was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 36 years of age. The words “you have breast cancer” left Tanya feeling weak, vulnerable and scared. The only thing worse than hearing those words, she said, is telling your children.

As a single mum, life was already difficult for Tanya. She’d always believed herself to be a strong person, despite all that life had thrown at her. Listening to her story, I couldn’t agree more – and I’m sure you’ll agree too.

What went through your mind when you found a lump?

My first thoughts were “this lump is huge”. That was followed by “oh no, this is bad, this is really bad”. It took me a whole week to pluck up the courage to make a doctor’s appointment. I kept feeling the lump over and over, and it felt – to me at least – that it was getting bigger every day.

What happened at the doctor’s appointment?

It was a blur, really. I remember leaving the doctor’s in a panic, with the worst case scenario playing over and over in my mind. I rang my sister and said I had to go for an ultrasound and a biopsy, and she came with me. And… I cried about it. I cried a lot. Everything seemed to happen so quickly.

How did your family respond to your diagnosis?

My eldest daughter was living in Tasmania at the time. She wanted to come home immediately. I told her no, stay, I’ll be okay. I didn’t want her to worry. But when I came out of surgery, she was standing in the waiting room. She’d come home anyway; I couldn’t believe it, I was so happy to see her.

My youngest daughter still has moments when she’ll ask “what if I get breast cancer too?” and that breaks my heart. I just continue to reassure her and educate her.

What were your experiences of chemotherapy?

Chemo made me sick and my hair started falling out. All my eyelashes fell out, and my nose hairs too. My nose and eyes watered constantly, which was just horrendous. I remember my sister came around one day to check on me and I said “Oh I’m just that sick, even my eyebrows hurt today!” I love to laugh about these things – you have to laugh.


Right after your diagnosis, you moved back to your hometown. Why?

Life as a single mum of three can be tough. I’d always thought of myself as a strong person, but my breast cancer diagnosis left me feeling weak and vulnerable. My youngest was born profoundly deaf; I didn’t want to pull her out of a school that had the resources to support her, but I desperately needed my family’s support. I’d done it on my own up until that point, and I couldn’t do it anymore. So we moved and, fortunately, my children have coped really well.

There are so many Australians who want to help – how can we show our support?

Please buy the Australian Women’s Health Diary! It supports breast cancer clinical trials research – we need this research, you know, to help every woman survive their breast cancer.  This is one small thing you can do to make a big difference for women like me.


2015 Australian Women’s Health Diary

All funds raised from the sale of this diary supports clinical trials research for the prevention, treatment and cure of breast cancer. Since the diary was first printed in 1999, it’s raised a remarkable $10 million for the Breast Cancer Institute of Australia.

Here’s a snapshot of what you can expect inside the diary.

You can purchase your diary from:

“This diary supports breast cancer clinical trials research, which helps women like me. My memory since having treatment is just so bad; I really found the diary invaluable, because I can write things down and keep it all together. It has lots of nice little tips in it too. But, mostly, I love this diary because it supports research to help every woman survive breast cancer.”

About the Breast Cancer Institute of Australia (BCIA)

The BCIA is the fundraising department of the Australia and New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group.  For over 35 years this Group has conducted Australia’s only independent, collaborative breast cancer clinical trials research program for the treatment, prevention and cure of breast cancer. To learn more visit

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